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Leap of faith: Khay Santos ready to take a chance again

Santos in action.
Santos with her SEA Games medal.
Santos at TOPS “Usapang Sports on Air”.

NOTHING is impossible for former Southeast Asian Games long jump bronze medalist Khay Santos of Baguio City.

Now 30 and already a full-time mother, Santos is hoping to come out of retirement and make a comeback in the sport she loves the most.

Santos believes she is ready to take a chance again.

I think I can still do it (come back from retirement) and excel in long jump again. I train very hard every day even now with the pandemic. I do a lot of endurance training,” said Santos during the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sport (TOPS) via Zoom last Thursday.

It’s really a matter of time management for me, lalo ngayong may baby na ako. I take my training and preparations one day at a time. I know what to do already dahil eight years na din ako sa national team. Madami na akong natutunan sa mga naging coaches ko,” explained Santos in the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).

The mind is willing, pero yun body iba na. So hindi mo pwedeng pwersahin ang sarili mo just because you think na kaya mo. Your mind is very strong pero yung katawan, especially for me na

mom na, hindi na ganun kalakas gaya dati,” added Santos, who bagged a bronze medal in the SEA Games in 2011 and retired in 2018.

Her first goal in her return?

A ticket to the Philippine team in the coming 2021 SEA Games in Vietnam in November.

I want to represent our country in long jump again. That’s the reason why I am working so hard to get myself back in shape. I wanted to make sure na kundisyon uli ako bago lumaban para sa bansa,” added Santos, whose 6.40-meter leap in the 77th Singapore Open Track and Field Championships in 2015 is ranked fourth all-time best Philippine record behind long jump greats Marestella Torres, Elma Muros-Posadas, and Lerma Bulaitan-Gabito.

Santos said the absence of young and talented long jump athletes is one of the reasons for her decision to cut short her retirement and return to action.

Gaya nga ng sinasabi ngayon nina coach Elma Muros at coach Jojo Posadas, nakalulungkot na walang mga bagong long jumpers sa ating bansa. Although wala ako sa stadium nun 2019 SEA Games, I know hindi tayo nakapasok. Nalungkot talaga ako. It was at that moment that I decided to come back and represent the country again lalo na malapit na uli ang SEA Games sa Vietnam,” said Santos.

Santos, who studied Bachelor of Science in International Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Baguio, is unfazed.

It seems hard. But based on my experience when I started training again and doing gradual sprints here in Baguio last year, sa tingin ko kaya ko pa,” claimed Santos while drawing a leaf from the example of fellow long jumper Torres.

Si Ate Marestella (Torres) is my example. Nag-Olympic qualifying pa siya at the age of 37. I am only 30 kaya hindi impossible na makamit ko din yun ganung status. Hopefully, mag-qualify ako sa SEA Games sa Vietnan and maybe Asian Games. Yun muna ang target ko right now.

Santos said she hopes to reach top shape before the National Open in New Clark City this September, which serves as qualifying tournament for the SEA Games in Vietnam.

How would she describe her life from 2011 when she first rose to prominence and captured a bronze medal in the SEA Games and 2021 when she is now hoping to makes a comeback.

After my first SEA Games na nanalo ako ng bronze medal, madami na din nangyari. Nanalo din ako ng silver and bronze medals sa Asian Grand Prix, although hindi siya qualifier to stay in the national team. SEA Games talaga ang pinag-uusapan. You should win two consecutive SEA Games medals,” recalled Santos, a product of the Palarong Pambansa.

In 2015, I actually improved my performance which is 6.40 meters. But I missed the bronze by one centimeter. Ate Marestella did 6.41 meters for the bronze. I think yung-6th or final jump, doon ako naging fourth placer. Kahit nga nag-personal best at nag-improve pa sa long jump or any events, sa athletics malaking disadvantage yun hindi ka mag-medal.

So that year (2015), natanggal ako sa national team while training in the US. Parang since 2015, mentally disturbed ako na kahit nag-perform ka ng mas better sa 2011 bronze medal mo, matatanggal ka pa din sa national team ” rued Santos, who first tried long jump when she was in sixth grade.

She said she felt disappointed at the turn of events, prompting her to rethink her priorities.

I wanted to quit even before 2018. I just don’t know how. Feeling ko pagod na ako, feeling ko disappointed ako. Pero mahal ko talaga yung sport,” she said.

If given the chance again, Santos now wants to reclaim her spot in the national team.

Right now hindi pa ako kasama sa national team so I cannot join the bubble training in Calamba. But ok naman personal traning ko dito sa Baguio. Malaking tulong yung high altitude training ko. Kahit short distance running, nakatutulong talaga ma-develop yun muscles lalo na pag uphill run.

Pero dahil may pandemic, basics lang muna inside the house, like jumping jacks. Pati squats at sit-ups,” added Santos, who went to Baguio City National High School.

Asked for her suggestion to top sports officials, Santos claimed there is really a need to broaden the talent identification program of the national sports association.

“For me, medyo mahirap kasi very limited talaga ang gusto ang mag long jump. Hindi siya popular gaya ng volleyball or basketball. Mas madalas din naka-focus lagi sa NCR at Western Visayas ang paghahanap ng mga talents. Sa media exposure, very limited din compared to other sports. Kaya talaga disadvantage po ang sports namin na long jump,” claimed Santos.

Pero gaya nga ng sabi ni ate Elma (Muros), kailangan patuloy tayong maghanap ng mga bagong atleta na susunod sa mga yapak namin.

Who will be the next Elma Muros, the country’s undisputed “Long Jump Queen” ?

I’m not thinking about it right now,“said Santos.

For me, I am coming back to prove myself. I want to show our countrymen na kaya ko pa. I want to show my fellow female athletes that motherhood can be an inspiration to do better. I think i am a better person now. And I am ready to take a chance again.